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A guide for parents to choose a guardian for your child

No one wants to think about the possibility of someone else raising their child, but it’s important to have a plan for your children should something happen to you and your partner. As difficult as this decision is, choosing a guardian for your child is an arrangement that all parents must make.

There are two types of guardian you can choose – the estate guardian and the person’s guardian. An estate is responsible for managing your child’s finances if you pass away. A guardian for the person will be the guardian of your child while you are away.

If you do not name a guardian for your children, the court will. So it is in your child’s best interest to handpick a guardian who matches your values ​​and will give your child a life you can feel confident about.

Before you go and name your sister-in-law or your elderly parents, you should consider a few things to make the process easier. Below are tips to consider when choosing your child̵

7;s guardian, along with quotes from real parents and a flowchart covering questions to ask in the decision-making process.

1. Make a list of potential candidates

Imagine the life you want for your child and start listing possible candidates. Start with immediate family members such as siblings and parents and work your way out. John E. O’Grady, an estate planning attorney in San Francisco, told parents that “many parents feel obligated to choose a close family member, but you have to broaden your scope for the sake of your child.”

Sit down with your partner and write down a list of about ten potential candidates. Be sure to include family members, distant relatives and close friends. Mickey Mikeworth of Mikeworth Consulting, a private consulting service, says she has a blended family and had to have two separate custody plans for each of her children because they had different parents.

“For my husband’s child, we chose someone who could actually move into our home if necessary. For my child, we chose a family member he was very close to who would adopt him as his own.”

2. Consider your values ​​versus theirs

Consider your moral, political and religious beliefs compared to the people on your list. Carole Summers, a family psychotherapist, told Today’s Parent that you should consider your own parenting style.

“Are you authoritarian, overly permissive, or a firm yet flexible parent? You want someone who has a similar approach and shares your values,” she explains. This stability in parenting will make it easier for your child to continue after you are gone.

Denna Babul, an author, television personality and speaker, says that when choosing a guardian for her and her husband’s children, it came down to their core values. “We had a family that we love, but realized that they may or may not be raising our children with the values ​​that we hold dear. I would say that parents need to look at the adults around them and see who they really think will to hold their values.”

“Do they treat others kindly? Are they charitable? Do they have integrity? Are they trustworthy?” adds Babul.

3. How is their family life?

When you choose someone to be your children’s guardian, you are choosing their entire family, not just them. Make sure their family life is similar to yours. For many parents, this means finding a family where the couple has a stable relationship. For others, having children for their son or daughter to bond with may be most important.

Joe Flanagan, community manager at DaddiLife, says it was down to the existing relationship between the prospective guardian and his or her partner. “Obviously it’s important that you trust the person(s), but the most important thing for us was to choose a couple that was in a stable and likely ‘forever’ relationship,” he explains.

4. Are they financially stable?

Although you may be tempted to choose your sibling or family friend, make sure you choose a guardian who is financially stable enough to care for another child. Do they own a home? Do you have a permanent job? Do you have any significant debt?

Jess Holmes, mother of three boys, says she and her husband prioritized their options “by deciding who was financially able to take on three more children and love them unconditionally, of course. For us, it was my father-in-law.”

Your potential guardian will most likely be listed as a contingent beneficiary on your life insurance policy. This is the person who will collect the death benefits if your primary beneficiary is unable to collect them. Make sure the person you choose is financially responsible enough to manage any finances for your children.

5. Where do they live?

Keep in mind that your children will likely move into the home of the guardian you choose. Stability is essential for children, and you may not want to move your child to another state unless you have to. “A cross-country move doesn’t matter for a baby or toddler, but you don’t want to uproot school-age children from their friends and familiar surroundings,” explains Liza Hanks, author of The Mom’s Guide to Wills and Estate Planning.

Consider where the potential guardian lives and whether you can imagine your child growing up there. If you live in the suburbs, try to find a guardian who lives in a similar neighborhood to yours. Moving your child to a city can be a big culture shock, so aim to keep their living situation as close to yours as possible.

6. Take age and health into account

Your parents may seem like the best option right now, but will they be able to run after your child? Will they be able to take your teenager to and from soccer practice? “The problem I often run into as an attorney when choosing guardians is the potential for ‘changed circumstances,'” says David Reischer, family attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com. “I have had to change an already court-approved guardianship of a minor after health problems developed in the guardian.”

Checking the age and health history of each potential guardian is an important step. Be sure to choose someone who will be there until your child turns 18 – and possibly beyond.

7. Choose your guardians

Once you’ve taken all of the above into account, it’s time to choose a guardian. Consider choosing two guardians if it makes sense for your situation – a guardian for the estate (someone who manages the finances) and a guardian for the person (someone who manages your child’s day-to-day life). Find someone who you and your partner both agree on and who has the finances, family life and values ​​you feel comfortable with. Consider choosing a guardian in case they say no.

8. Ask for permission

Asking your chosen guardian for permission is a memorable moment. “Make the question special by writing a personal letter or sharing your heart with the couple in person,” says Denna Babul. “Give them time to consider the question and make it communicative.”

Start the conversation by first thanking them for always being there for you and your family. Then preface the question by saying that you want them to really think and consider your question because it could change their life forever. After asking, have an open and honest conversation about your expectations and the responsibilities that come with being a guardian.

How to choose your guardian

This is the hardest part for many parents because it makes this important decision so final. When parents die without naming a guardian, they ultimately leave their children’s fate in the hands of a judge. Choosing a guardian for your children is something you have to face as a parent. However, if you are comfortable with your choice, you only need to name the person in your will.

Get together with your spouse and create a will and testament if you haven’t already. Make sure you have the right information for the guardian you choose and write down any specific requests you have. Any verbal agreements you make with the guardian will not hold up in court.

No one can replace you as a parent and the thought of someone else raising your children is terrifying. But if you find someone who reflects your values, has stable finances, and a family that your child is comfortable with, your child will be in good hands should something happen to you and your partner. For more tips on choosing a guardian for your minor children, check out our flowchart below that covers questions you should ask yourself.

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